More Chaos: Esper Says Pentagon Doesn’t Back Using Military Against Citizens. Trump Bans Chinese Planes.

More Chaos: Esper Says Pentagon Doesn’t Back Using Military Against Citizens. Trump Bans Chinese Planes.

“I’m not excited about anything with respect to China”, Donald Trump said Wednesday, just in case anyone was under the impression that relations between the world’s two superpowers might thaw anytime soon.

As previewed here last week, China has spent the last several days pointing to nationwide protests across America (and particularly the administration’s handling of those protests) as evidence of hypocrisy vis-à-vis Beijing’s plans to impose mainland security protocol to help quell violent demonstrations in Hong Kong.

But it’s not just America’s position on the Hong Kong issue that’s undermined by the demonstrations against racial inequality across the US. Ongoing discrimination against African Americans also undercuts the State department’s moral authority when it comes to human rights abuses committed against Muslim minority groups in Xinjiang.

China is taking full advantage of the situation.

“We always oppose racial discrimination”, foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said, during a Wednesday media briefing. “We hope the US government will take concrete measures to fulfill its obligations under the international convention on the elimination of all forms of racial discrimination to protect the legal rights of ethnic minorities”, he added.

That has to be absolutely maddening for Mike Pompeo, but such is life, and such are America’s foreign policy dilemmas as long as the country refuses to confront and address its own “original sin” (i.e., slavery) in a serious way.

“China has shown patience toward the Hong Kong riots”, a Global Times commentary reads. “Does the White House believe that deploying the military can solve its deep-seated problems?”

The answer would appear to be “yes” if you ask Donald Trump (or William Barr), but it’s a definite “no” if you ask Mark Esper – you know, the guy in charge of the military.

“The National Guard is best suited for performing domestic support to civil authorities in these situations in support of local law enforcement”, Esper told the media on Wednesday, during a somewhat forlorn press conference.


“The option to use active-duty forces in a law enforcement role should only be used as a matter of last resort and only in the most urgent and dire of situations”, the Defense chief went on to remark. “We are not in one of those situations now”.

Perhaps fearing he wasn’t making himself clear, he reiterated: “I do not support invoking the Insurrection Act”.

That is about as unequivocal as it gets in terms of the Pentagon rebuking the president. Esper also called Trump’s widely-criticized jaunt to St. John’s Episcopal Church “a photo op” and said he knew nothing about the plans when he and Mark Milley accompanied the president on Monday evening after protesters were gassed and fired upon with rubber bullets.

Trump claims he didn’t order the protesters dispersed and says no tear gas was used. “I didn’t say, oh, move them out”, Trump told Fox’s Brian Kilmeade. “They didn’t use tear gas”.

That latter contention is starkly at odds with the events as they unfolded on live television Monday evening. Every national media outlet was broadcasting live when police deployed some manner of gas or smoke into the crowd.

Meanwhile, Trump suspended passenger flights from Chinese airlines to the US. The Transportation department says it was “responding to the failure of the Government of the People’s Republic of China to permit US carriers to exercise the full extent of their bilateral right to conduct scheduled passenger air services”.

The order is effective from June 16 and applies to Air China, China Eastern Airlines Corp, China Southern Airlines, and Hainan Airlines.

There’s a long-winded rationale which you can read for yourself (below), but the bottom line is that this is just another tit-for-tat escalation on top of the myriad issues which have plunged the world’s two largest economies into the closest thing to a cold war since… well, since the Cold War.

All of the above speaks to frayed nerves and high drama both on the domestic and foreign policy fronts, as the White House is now apparently out of sync with the Pentagon on the relative merits of deploying active-duty US troops against American citizens, and still determined to find time for daily escalations with Beijing.

Department of Transportation notice

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12 thoughts on “More Chaos: Esper Says Pentagon Doesn’t Back Using Military Against Citizens. Trump Bans Chinese Planes.

  1. So much winning! America increasingly looking like the Taj Mahal (the crappy casino in Atlantic City, not the beautiful mausoleum in Agra).

  2. First in,first out… China may be pushing it a little too far. They only persecute you if you believe in the wrong god and happen to be in the middle of the Belt and Road. Not Racial at all, maybe coincidence.
    Thank you Esper for being an adult. Trump is looking like the guy from high school who’s car you did not want to get into on a Friday night. The Police of America need to police their own ranks, this may be a last call. Old school is out.
    Most just want their 20 year pension and will put an end to this. Big Carrot to lose for what? bad apples.

  3. Trump is emboldened by the continued market rally. Market indexes are his ultimate measuring stick. Which is one reason that he is unlikely to moderate his behavior in either his domestic stance or his war of words with China. Not surprisingly, so far, his bark has been far worse than his bite when it comes to punishing China. He undoubtedly recalls how his trade war rattled markets. However, conflicts like cold wars tend to take on a life of their own. With congressional consensus on the need to confront China, the situation might well escalate beyond the election year posturing that Trump intended.

    Meanwhile, just how divorced Wall street is from Main street has been laid bare for even the least astute observer. The former got its bailout and is riding Fed-induced liquidity ever higher while the latter is showing the strain of a toxic combination of economic misfortune and systemic problems. I cannot imagine that this is a formula for nationwide prosperity and stability.

    1. I could not agree more on both fronts. The higher the market goes, the more obnoxious Trump will become toward China. It is only a matter of time before China decides to pull the plug on the trade “deal”. And unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on who you are) domestic protests are likely to shift attention to the massive inequality that is so pervasively embedded in all matter of media these days. These protests are only likely to grow and become more volatile, particularly if no additional unemployment support is provided by the U.S. Congress.

  4. While we really don’t want a military with a mind of its own doing as it pleases, it’s nice to know that someone at the Pentagon is willing to say NO to Trump.
    It’s amazing that it’s Mark Esper saying no since he owes his job to Trump AND that he’s a former lobbyist for Defense Contractors. Just think of all the business these contractors missed out on supplying bullets, bombs, and tanks to be used against US citizens

    1. They are probably a bit concerned about destroying the infrastructure they use to make said consumer goods. Bombs are best dropped outside ones own backyard.

    2. Mark Esper isn’t even close to saying no. He is merely trying to stake out a reasonable position two days after he and Milley appeared in Trump’s practice run of a Nuremberg Rally. Esper would probably prefer it if he could have some sort of a career after the Trump presidency. Push comes to shove he will either fall into line or he will meekly accept his ouster.

  5. “That has to be absolutely maddening for Mike Pompeo”

    Not sure at all. These guys got no sense of irony or embarrassment. God is their guide, they are always right…

    “It’s not the same thing. We’re white, Christian Americans therefore we’re right by default in whatever we do”. They specialise in noticing the speck in our eyes and not the log in theirs…

  6. The orange Pooh-bah was the one who has taken great effort to point out he stopped flights from China to help stop the spread of the virus. Saving thousands of American lives. (Even though he could have saved tens of thousands if he had kept the Pandemic Office in tact and listened to his intelligence advisors.) Allowing air flights between countries is something each country has to decide on depending on the risks involved with a pandemic that’s still very real. As for the pandemic…There are going to be spikes and more deaths by the demonstrators not wearing masks and keeping social distancing. And that’s happening this summer. Then we get the second wave in the fall. Hell of a price to pay to have the orange pooh-bah and the GOP voted out in November…and then the jubilation celebrations…another time hopefully with masks and distancing and lots of Champagne.

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